Domestic Weekly Update July 26, 2011
New and Urgent in This Week’s Update
Latest from Washington, DC
Keep Generating Media on Early Childhood Investments (July Action)
RESULTS volunteers around the country are still churning out great media pieces on the budget and early learning investments per the July Action. These letters and op-eds are very important as the current budget debate transitions from the immediate debt ceiling fight to the annual appropriations process. No matter how the debt ceiling debate gets resolved (see below), the final plan will almost certainly include cuts to domestic discretionary programs, thus impacting Head Start and child care programs. This is why our media work is so important this month. By pushing for these investments now, members of Congress will see that constituents around the country expect these programs to get priority when it is time to slice up the FY 2012 pie.
When writing your letters, increase your chances of publication by hooking it to a local story or event in your area. For example, this weekend Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), held a summit on early childhood education with fifty early learning advocates. This summit, which was covered by the local media, is a great “hook” for local RESULTS volunteers in Iowa to highlight in their letters to the editor. Look for similar “hooks” in your local media. By referring to something already covered in the press and using it to link to the importance of early learning programs, you can increase the chances of getting published.
Finally, we have a scheduling update related to early learning funding. Last week, we urged for calls to early childhood aides in the House in anticipation of tomorrow’s Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to begin marking up its budget. Late last week, we learned that the Labor-HHS funding hearing has been postponed. The meeting is likely to be postponed until after the summer recess, which means they will not take up the Labor-HHS budget until after Labor Day. This development gives us more time to build up momentum for protecting these vital early learning programs, which you can do right now.
TAKE ACTION: Take the July Action. Draft and submit a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local paper urging members of Congress to protect low-income children and families by funding Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care Development Block Grant at levels necessary to maintain existing services. This would mean a $1.2 billion increase for CCDBG and a total allotment of $8.1 billion for Head Start/Early Head Start. See the July Action sheet for talking points and background information. Be sure to mention your members of Congress by name when urging them to act and once your piece gets published, be sure to fax a copy to your congressional offices.
This week marked the end of a long, drawn-out saga that has gripped Americans from coast to coast. Months of negotiations, finger pointing, accusations, and haggling have finally resulted in a deal. Both parties did not get everything they wanted but in the interests of the future, both sides felt moving forward was more important for America than a continued stalemate, especially with a looming deadline ahead. That’s right: on Monday, the NFL Lockout ended, paving the way for a 2011 football season.
While the above is made in jest, it does highlight the dangerous absurdity of the current debate in Washington over the debt ceiling. It begs the question, if the Bears and Packers can get along, why not Congress? In the NFL situation, the failure to agree would have meant no football on Sundays. Inconvenient? Maybe. Tragic? Hardly.
Unfortunately, the stakes in the fight in DC are much more serious. The failure to agree to raise the debt ceiling could mean 40-45 percent of the 80 million checks the government sends out each month do not go out (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments, payroll checks, veterans’ pay, contracting fees, etc.); panic across financial markets, resulting in a major drop in the stock market; a rise in interest rates, making it harder to obtain credit and also increasing U.S. payments on the national debt by billions of dollars; the U.S. credit rating gets lowered, thus further shaking global confidence in the U.S. financial system; and another recession is triggered, meaning lost jobs, pay cuts, and further strain on the social safety net. As of Monday, a default seemed more and more likely after negotiations again broke down over the weekend.
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled his plan to break the stalemate. His plan would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion but then cut spending by $2.7 trillion over the next ten years ($1.2 trillion from domestic discretionary programs, including defense; $1 trillion from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; $400 billion from reduced interest on the debt; $100 billion from other areas). The Reid proposal would not cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security, but would also not raise any new revenue per Republican demands. Finally, Sen. Reid’s plan would create a 12-member commission to examine further deficit reduction ideas that would get up-or-down votes by the end of the year. This plan would postpone another raising of the debt ceiling until after the 2012 elections.
Also on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) unveiled his plan moving forward. Loosely based on their Cut, Cap and Balance plan, which the House passed last week but failed in the Senate, this plan would raise the debt ceiling by about $1 trillion immediately. To compensate, it would include a cap on domestic discretionary programs designed to cut that spending by $1 trillion over the next decade. The president would then have to request another debt ceiling increase in early 2012, which could not exceed $1.5 trillion and be contingent on Congress passing at least $1.6 trillion in addition cuts to be recommended by a commission similar to Reid’s. As expected, the plan has no revenue provisions and would require a vote on a balanced budget amendment between October 23 and December 31, 2011 (which would not be subject to the normal two-thirds majority requirement in both chambers to pass).
Last night, in an address to the nation, President Obama weighed in and reiterated his support for a “grand deal” that combined both new revenue and spending cuts to deal with our long-term deficits and debt. He said that the Reid plan (even though it has no new revenue) would be a down payment for moving forward and he would support it. He was also critical of the Boehner plan as a “cut-only” plan that does not solve our problem, will not avert a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, and will repeat this exact same debate — and exact same stalemate — in another six months. He closed by asking all Americans, if they support a balanced approach, to contact their members of Congress to let them know. Evidently, they did; reports are that the congressional servers crashed last night after his speech.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The Senate will vote on the Reid plan tomorrow, which will need 60 votes to move forward. The House is expected to vote on the Boehner plan tomorrow as well, but there is no guarantee it will pass; it is unlikely to garner more than a few, if any, Democratic votes and many “Tea Party” Republicans have voiced objections to the plan.
One thing is for sure. We need to make our voices heard, and we need to do it now.
TAKE ACTION: Use our online call-in alert to contact members of Congress about the debt ceiling debate. Tell them to support only a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes new revenue as part of the solution and protects low-income Americans from budget cuts. We are down to the final days and hours so not only call your representatives and senators yourself, urge friends, family and colleagues to do the same.
Also, spread the word about the injustice of this debate, in that it ignores the real needs of working Americans, by watching and sharing this video parody from the SAVE for All coalition. It points in song the misguided priorities of many of our leaders in Washington. Once you’ve viewed it, send it out to your e-mail lists, post the link on your Facebook page, and Twitter it to your friends to get the word out.
In two weeks, Congress will go on recess for a month (August 7-September 5). Recesses are important opportunities for constituents to meet and talk with representatives and senators about the issues they care about. Members of Congress will be holding town hall meetings and will also be available for face-to-face meetings with local RESULTS groups. Be sure to take advantage of this time to schedule a meeting with them to talk about our 2011 priorities.
By the time they leave Washington, we will know the endgame of the debt ceiling debate. We can then shift our attention to the FY 2012 budget process. As mentioned above, the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate will be meeting after Labor Day to begin making funding decisions for Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care Development Block Grant. Urging members of Congress to speak to appropriators about the importance of these programs will be a key part of our August Action (available next week). Start the process now by scheduling your recess meetings with your members of Congress before their schedules fill up.
TAKE ACTION: Get your request in now to meet with your representatives and senators during the summer recess. These are great opportunities to meet with them in person to discuss our issues, as well as attend public appearances and town halls. We also have an online letter you can use to request meetings. Next week’s update will highlight the August Action, which will center on in-district meetings and town halls.
And please remember, the RESULTS Domestic Staff is here to help. Once you get a meeting scheduled (or town hall date and time confirmed), please contact us to help you prepare.
RESULTS Engaging Advocates in the Northeast and Midwest; Invite People to RESULTS Meet and Greet Call Tomorrow Night
Last week, RESULTS Domestic Staff traveled in the Northeast and Midwest looking to engage more people in RESULTS’ work to end poverty. First, RESULTS Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson met with existing and potential new advocates in Maine. They had a good meeting which will hopefully lay the groundwork for a new group in that important state in the coming months. Later that same week, Domestic Outreach Organizer Jos Linn presented at the Kansas Conference on Poverty in Topeka, leading two sessions on media and grassroots advocacy. Jos got good response from the attendees and a number of new members to our e-mail network. Jos also met with a volunteer in Kansas City, who will be helping start a new group there in September. We thank all of those people in Maine, Kansas, and Missouri who met with RESULTS staff last week and we look forward to working with them.
If you know someone who would thrive in RESULTS or is passionate about social justice and poverty, please let the RESULTS Domestic staff know. We are happy to work with you to engage them in this important work. In addition, RESULTS will begin hosting monthly introductory calls to RESULTS for people who might want to get involved but need to know more about us. Our first of these “Meet and Greet” call will be tomorrow night, Wednesday, July 27th 2011 at 9:00 pm ET. The calls will last about 30 minutes and will allow people to get a short and sweet taste of who RESULTS is, what we do, and why we do it. The call will be a great place to send new activists in your group, curious friends and family members, acquaintances you meet, and people you’d like to recruit to join our organization. Please invite any interested parties to RSVP for this call at http://tinyurl.com/64krwpn. If you have questions about the call, please email Mary Peterson on the RESULTS staff.
This week is bittersweet for the RESULTS Domestic staff as we say goodbye to 2011 Emerson National Hunger Fellow Rebecca Van Maren. Rebecca joined RESULTS in March as part of her fellowship and since then has been an invaluable asset to our work at RESULTS. She has focused primarily on our early childhood development work by monitoring the latest research on early learning, updating our website, helping post Head Start and child care video stories, and keeping volunteers up-to-date on various subjects through insightful and informative blog posts. Our advocacy on early learning this year has been made all the better because of her efforts. In addition, Rebecca helped a great deal at the RESULTS International Conference by coordinating the excellent Head Start presentation and working with our Campus for Change students.
Rebecca will be moving to Seattle after leaving RESULTS to help implement a local community food program; we are confident she will be a great success. We thank Rebecca her for her hard work, positive outlook, and passion for justice while at RESULTS; she has been a great member of our team. While we are sad to see her go, we know she has a bright future ahead of her. Thank you, Rebecca, and good luck!
Invite Congressional Staffing to SNAP Briefing. We continue to monitor the status of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In the last few months, misinformation about SNAP has been used to justify drastic cuts and structural changes to the program. Keeping congressional staff well informed, especially staff that is less seasoned, is critical to fighting attempts to block grant SNAP or cut benefits during this year’s budget negotiations. Tomorrow, the congressional Black Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and the Hispanic Caucus will host a briefing “Fact vs. Fiction: The Benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)” on Capitol Hill. This is a great chance to educate congressional staff about the importance of SNAP. The briefing is Wednesday, July 27th from 2:00 – 3:00 pm ET in 2226 Rayburn House Office Building. Please contact your House and Senate nutrition aides to attend this briefing.
Join in Medicare Anniversary Events This Week. July 30 is the 46th Anniversary of Medicare. Medicare is a “single-payer” health plan in that patients receive treatment from private doctors and hospitals that are then paid by the U.S. government for their services. It is a public-private partnership that has succeeded since its inception in 1965. In its first year, Medicare served 19 million Americans; today, it serves 45 million persons. To commemorate the anniversary of Medicare, Healthcare-NOW! is organizing events around the country this weekend to celebrate. These events are also designed to push back against efforts to cut Medicare currently being discussed in Washington. Go to Healthcare-NOW!’s website to find an event in your area or if there is no event, on how to organize one.
New Study Shows Widening Wealth Gap in Communities of Color. From the Pew Research Center: “The median wealth of white households is 20 times greater than that of black households and 18 times greater than that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research analysis of newly-available data from a 2009 government survey. These ratios are the largest in the quarter century since the government first published such data. From 2005 to 2009, median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households, 53% among black households and 16% among white households.” Urge Washington to address this injustice by signing the NETWORK petition urging President Obama to convene a White House Summit on the wealth gap.
Continue Your Conference Follow-Up. Please be sure to follow up with offices you met with at the recent RESULTS conference by sending a thank you note or e-mail asking about the progress on your requests. Also, please document your meetings in our online Lobby Report form so we have a record of how your meetings went. As always, we have all our conference resources on our International Conference page and if you have any questions or need any assistance with follow-up or actions, please don’t hesitate to contact the RESULTS Domestic Staff. Finally, whether or not you were able to attend this year’s conference, please fill out our short conference survey to help us plan future gatherings.
Remember New Conference Call Date and Time in August. The next RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call will be Tuesday, August 9, from 8:00-9:00 pm ET. This will be a special call which will include an update of the budget negotiations in DC, review of the great resources with Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten campaign, and look at key parts of the RESULTS website. We may also briefly discuss how to broaden your advocacy through social media. Please plan to participate as a group or, if necessary, on your own, at a location that allows you to be on a conference call while in front of a computer with high-speed internet. We look forward to a great call and seeing how this new experiment goes (note: in September, we will go back to our regular call time, Saturday, September 10 at 12:30 pm ET).
(See a complete calendar)
Wednesday, July 27: Capitol Hill Briefing on the benefits of SNAP, 2:00 pm ET. 2226 Rayburn House Office Building.
Wednesday, July 27: RESULTS “Meet and Greet” call, 9:00 pm ET. RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/64krwpn.
Saturday, July 30: Medicare turns 46! Find and event in your area.
Sunday, August 7 – Monday, September 5: House and Senate summer recess. Request face-to-face meetings back home.
Tuesday, August 9: RESULTS National Conference Call, 8:00 pm ET. For this call, you will call into a conference call number to listen to the call but you’ll also want to be in front of your computer so we can review some internet resources on the call. You can listen to recordings of previous national conference calls on the RESULTS website.
Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 783-2818, 750 First Street NE, Suite 1040, Washington DC 20002. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil.
Domestic Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff:
The RESULTS Domestic Update is sent out every Tuesday over e-mail to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.